Thursday, December 28, 2017

ChezCindy: Pavlova Meringue Cake with Cherries and Berries

This impressive looking dessert is so easy to make, you could turn this into a family activity for a party or a fun Friday night, even involving the young children to help.  You will need 2 hours to make the cake, but most of the time is inactive with the cake baking in a low oven.  During those 2 hours you can eat dinner, play games or watch a movie.  When you are ready for dessert, simply add the whipped cream and fresh fruit and eat at once.  

A Pavlova cake is named in honor of a Russian ballerina, with the billowing meringue meant to resemble the tutu skirt worn by a ballerina.  The meringue is so pretty it also reminds me of fresh fallen snow.  The meringue cake is slightly crisp on the surface, soft and marshmallowy on the inside.  Dolloped with whipped cream and fresh fruit for a yummy satisfying sweet treat.  You can use other fruit choices, such as strawberries or blackberries and blueberries.  Once the cake is assembled, it is meant to be eaten right away.  It will not store overnight.  So plan on serving this to a large group.  

Pavlova Meringue Cake
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Fruit Topping
Whipped Cream

Powdered sugar for dusting

To make the meringue cake:  Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.  Draw an 8-inch circle on the parchment, turn over the parchment so that the circle faces down on the baking sheet.

Working with the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until foamy.  Gradually add in the sugar, beating on medium-high speed for about 10 minutes until firm glossy peaks form.  Whisk in the vinegar, vanilla and pinch of salt.  Remove the bowl from the stand and sift the cornstarch over the whipped egg whites, gently folding it in.

Using a large spoon, scoop out the meringue into the center of the circle onto the prepared baking sheet.  Spread out in swirling fashion, keeping it within the circle.

Place the sheet pan into the oven, immediately lowering the heat to 225 degrees.  Bake for 60 minutes.  The meringue should be crisp on the surface, with the center being just bit a bit softer.  Turn off the oven, prop open the door just a few inches, leaving the meringue in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.  The meringue cake can be left at room temperature for a few hours before assembling into the Pavlova.  

Fruit Topping
8 ounces sweet cherries, pitted
6 ounces raspberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon cold water

Combine the fruit and sugar into a small bowl.  After 30-45 minutes, the juices will have run out from the fruit, creating a fruit and juice mixture.  Drain the juices into a small sauce pan, keeping the fruit in the bowl.  In a separate small bowl, combine the corn starch and cold water to make a slurry.  Place the pan with the juice over a low flame on the stove top.  Stir in the slurry a teaspoon at a time to thicken the juice, adding only enough slurry until the juice is slightly thickened.  

Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer, add the cream to a large bowl.  Begin beating the cream, adding in the sugar.  Beat until soft peaks form.  

To assemble the Pavlova:  Place the meringue cake onto a serving plate.  Spoon the whipped cream into the center of the meringue, swirling decoratively.  Using a slotted spoon, arrange the fruit over the whipped cream.  Drizzle the fruit with the thickened fruit juice.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

ChezCindy: Sweet Treat! Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Bark with Dried Fruit and Nuts

This sweet treat is easy to put together, yet it carries an element of sophistication and fun at the same time.  Making "homemade" chocolate candy treats seems like something only an experienced home cook would do.  But this is as easy as melting chocolate.  For this recipe, I use dried fruit and nuts for my chocolate bark.  But the recipe is versatile, allowing you to switch out the fruit and nuts to match the occasion or your preference.  I have made the bark with crushed graham crackers and mini marshmallows;  swirls of hazelnut chocolate spread and sea salt; chopped pretzels and peanuts; or with swirls of white chocolate and crushed candy canes.

Because I bake so often, I always have various bars of chocolate in by pantry.  In this recipe I use 12 ounces of 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate by Ghirardelli.  For a sweeter chocolate treat, use semi-sweet chocolate or a blend of both.  

A search on "chocolate" on my site will bring you to many favorite recipes, including this one honoring pastry chef Alice Medrich.    My Chocolate Hero

Chocolate Bark with Dried Fruit and Nuts
12 ounces dark chocolate 60% cocoa
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add the chocolate to the top of a double boiler pan, or to a heat-proof bowl set over a pan filled with a small amount of water, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Place the pan over medium low heat.  Stir the chocolate as it begins to melt, stirring until it becomes fully melted and appears smooth and creamy.  Remove for the heat.

Place a large sheet of parchment paper onto a sheet pan.  Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper, spreading it thinly to form the shape of a rectangle.  Sprinkle the top of the melted chocolate with the dried cranberries, chopped apricots and chopped nuts.  Set aside for 2 hours until firm.  Cut the bark into pieces.  Store at a cool room temperature.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

ChezCindy: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Asian chicken lettuce wraps are quite popular as an appetizer at favorite restaurants.  But they are very easy to make at home.  The lettuce wraps are a fun interactive party dish to serve for a few guests or a large crowd, or to your family on any weekday for dinner.  Most people are likely to be familiar with how to put them together. You just set out the lettuce, shredded carrots and cilantro next to the bowl of cooked seasoned chicken, much like you would for tacos.  

Be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.  Once you start cooking, things move fast and it is done within minutes.  So, dice, chop, mince and measure before you turn on the heat.  And speaking of heat, I call for just a half teaspoon of hot chili paste.  Increase or decrease to your preference.    

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2 tablespoons oil
1-pound ground chicken
1/2 cup finely diced onion
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sambal hot chili garlic paste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Bibb lettuce for serving.  Grated carrot, thinly sliced cucumber and radish, and cilantro for garnish.  

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil to the pan, swirl to coat.  Add the diced onion to the pan, stirring occasionally, cooking for about 3 minutes.  Add in the minced garlic and the grated carrot, stir to combine, cooking for 2 minutes.  Add in the ground chicken, breaking into small pieces, stirring until lightly browned and cooked through.  Add in the brown sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chili paste and black pepper.  Stirring to combine until heated through.

Spoon the chicken into the lettuce "cups", garnish with grated carrot, sliced cucumber and cilantro.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Classic Potato Latkes

I recently demonstrated how to make latkes at my library cooking class.  What a hit these were!  But then, who doesn't like fried potatoes?  I was not familiar with latkes before I decided to make them and began researching for my theme of  Recipes for Potato Side Dishes.  Once I realized how easy latkes are to make and how delicious they are, I wondered how these savory treats had evaded my palette for so long.

Latkes are potato pancakes traditionally eaten for Hanukkah.  They are fried in oil to commemorate the Hanukkah miracle of one day's oil lasting for eight days.

 Classic Potato Latke
1 pound of russet potatoes, 3 medium sized
     peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 3 equal pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Prepare a sheet tray lining it with paper towels and a wire rack set on top of the paper towels.  This is where the cooked latkes will be placed to cool.

To make the latkes:  Using a food processor* fitted with the grating blade, shred 2/3 of the potatoes, followed by 2/3 of the onion.  Transfer to a large kitchen towel.  Fit the food processor with the chopping blade.  Finely chop the remaining potatoes and onion.  Transfer to the towel with the shredded potatoes and onions.  Gather the towel tightly around the potato mixture and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.   

Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl.  Add the egg, 2 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper.  Stir until well blended.  If the mixture seems too wet, add the remaining tablespoon of flour.

In a large cast iron or electric skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom to 1/4 inch depth.  Heat the oil to 365 degrees.  Drop 1 tablespoon of potato batter into the pan, gently pressing the mound to flatten slightly.  Continue to fill the pan, allowing space between each potato mound.  Cook until the edges turn crisp and brown.  Flip to continue cooking on the second side.  Transfer the latkes to the prepared tray onto the wire rack.  Sprinkle with additional salt.  

Traditionally, latkes are served with applesauce or sour cream but are quite delicious without either.
Serve as an appetizer, or a side dish with your meal.   

*Use a standard box grater if you do not have a food processor. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

ChezCindy: Save the Day Trifle

Blackberries and Yellow Cake Trifle with Raspberry Icing and Whipped Cream

So, you have been called into duty to provide the next birthday treat for the office.  Let's say you've decided to make a favorite cupcake recipe, but oh no!  You left the cupcakes in the oven just a bit too long and they are overbaked.  No problem, just add lots of icing to camouflage that dry cupcake.  But now, its still an overbaked cupcake with too much icing.  What to do?  Turn those sad cupcakes into trifle and look like a dessert hero.
Basically a trifle dessert is cake, icing or pudding, sweetened whip cream and fruit.  And best of all, it presents an appearance as a impressive dessert you spent hours on.  Not just that, it tastes like you spent hours making it. 

Making a trifle is more of a process than a recipe.  Although, I do recommend making your own whipped cream and not using the stuff from the plastic tub.  Store bought cake is okay to start with.  You don't always need to begin with a baking disaster. 

Here's how you do it. 

You will need cake or cupcakes broken into pieces.   You can use angel food cake, pound cake, gingerbread cake or your own home baked chocolate or yellow cake.  Pudding or icing to compliment the cake.  Fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit such as berries, peaches, cherries, or bananas.

Working with a large glass bowl or individual jelly jars as shown in the picture.  Layer pieces of cake together with pudding or icing, drop in a few pieces of cut fruit or berries, top with fresh whipped cream.  Repeat the layers until you reach the top, ending with whipped cream and a scattering of fruit. 

Keep the trifle chilled until ready to serve. 

Fresh Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the heavy cream into a chilled bowl.  Using a mixer, whisk the cream until soft peaks begin to form.  Add in the sugar, 1 tablespoons at a time, whisking until incorporated.  Whisk in the vanilla.  The cream should be whipped until the peaks just begin to hold shape.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ChezCindy: Classic Potato-Leek Soup

Classic Potato-Leek Soup

Potato-leek soup is a classic soup.  It became somewhat elevated to a vogue status by Julia Child with the cold soup, Vichyssoise.  There is debate on the origin of the cold potato-leek soup as to whether it is French born or American invented.  It most likely was a soup of necessity in Europe when food was scarce and potatoes and onions were inexpensive staples of the kitchen. 

Traditional recipes most often include butter and cream, a nod to the French no doubt.  However in the recipe provided below, I use no dairy for an updated version of the classic, with no sacrifice to the flavor.  And, I serve it as hot soup.  If you were to make this recipe with intentions to serve it as a cold Vichyssoise, I would advise the use of butter and cream, as cold soup requires a greater depth of flavor since chilling dulls the overall taste. 

Leeks are a flavorful vegetable with a taste related to onions and garlic, but uniquely milder.  They will need a thorough rinsing as dirt hides within the layers.  To rinse them, cut off the darker green part leaving only the pale green and white.  Leaving the root-end intact, cut through the leek lengthwise, splitting from the root to the top.  Rinse under cold water separating the layers to rinse away the dirt.  Drain cut side down on paper towels. 

Classic Potato-Leek Soup
2 tablespoons oil
2 large leeks or 3 small
1 small white onion
2 large russet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
5 cups of chicken stock
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Working with a large heavy bottomed pan, add the oil, set over medium high heat.  Rinse the leeks thoroughly and cut into thin slices.  Cut the onion into thin slices.  Add the leeks and onions to the oiled pan, along with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook until wilted but with no browning, about 4 minutes.  Peel and dice the potatoes, add to the pan, stirring to coat.  Add the chicken stock, remaining salt and white pepper.  Cover, lowering the heat to medium low, and cook for 25 - 30 minutes until the potatoes are very tender.  Remove from heat and cool soup for 5 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth and silky.  Taste to adjust the seasoning as necessary.  Serve hot. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

ChezCindy: Savory Wild Brown Rice Bread Pudding

Savory Wild Brown Rice Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is often thought of as a delicious dessert, served with a warm butter rum sauce or a rich vanilla crème anglaise.  Here I have taken a savory twist on bread pudding, which could be thought of as dressing as served with Thanksgiving dinner.  This recipe is a great way to use leftover bread and rice to make a complete meal with poultry, fish or even tomato soup. 

Savory Wild Brown Rice Bread Pudding
4-5 cups fresh bread cubes (1/2-inch)
2 cups cooked wild brown rice
1/2 cup chopped shallot
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups cream
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs
    any combination of parsley, rosemary, sage, chives, thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.  Set aside.

Place the cubed bread onto a large baking sheet.  Toast in the oven for 5 minutes until lightly brown.

In a large sauté pan melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, add the chopped shallots.  Sauté the shallots until wilted, but not browned, roughly 4-5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Add in the 2 cups of cooked brown rice; stir to combine. 

Working with a small bowl, combine the cream and 4 eggs to make the custard.  Whisk to combine. 

In a large bowl, add the toasted bread cubes, 2 tablespoons chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  Add the custard mixture to the large bowl with the bread cubes; stir well to combine.  Add the rice and shallot mixture; stir to combine.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and the custard is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

ChezCindy: Double Oat Peach Crumble Bars

Double Oat Peach Crumble Bars

These oat bars just happen to be gluten free.  Using a standard old fashion bar cookie recipe, normally made with all-purpose flour and raspberry jam, I made them with oat flour and peach jam.  I wanted to test out how the recipe would do eliminating the gluten.  There is zero difference in process or results.  Peach jam was used as the filling thanks to a successful peach season this past summer.  I had made several batches of peach jam with an abundance just waiting to be eaten.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can use your favorite fruit jam of any flavor, homemade or store-bought.  The outcome is somewhat like a crumb-topped pie, but much easier as there is no rolling of dough.  It is a great recipe for kids to make who are just starting to learn about baking. 

Double Oat Peach Crumble Bars
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups peach jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square pan, line with parchment paper. 

Working with a stand mixer, add the softened butter, flour, oats, sugars, and salt to the mixing bowl.  Mix on low speed to combine.  With the mixer running, add in the beaten egg, mixing until the ingredients come together resembling coarse crumbs.  Remove 2 cups and set aside.  Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, forming an even layer.  Spread the jam over the crumb layer.  Crumble the 2 cups of crumb mixture over the jam to form a top layer. 

Bake until lightly browned, 40-45 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

ChezCindy: Roasted Pumpkin Squash

Roasted Pumpkin Wedges

Pumpkins can be roasted in the same manner as any other squash, such as butternut or acorn.  The exterior pumpkin skin is such a vibrant orange color, yet when the skin is peeled away, the interior flesh is surprisingly pale in color.  You will want to choose small pumpkins, often named as Sugar or Pie pumpkins.  The larger pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns are too tough and fibrous.  If you are lucky enough to find the heirloom variety pumpkins at a farm market, look for Long Island Cheese pumpkin, with pale yellow-orange skin, or the Cinderella pumpkin, more squat in shape resembling the carriage in the Disney story Cinderella. 

To roast the pumpkin, wash the pumpkin and dry it well.  Working on a stable cutting board that will hold its place on the counter, lay the pumpkin on its side; cut across the top about an inch away from the stem to remove the top.  The top can be roasted for presentation, but I usually toss it out.

Cut the pumpkin into quarters, remove the seeds and fibers.  The pumpkin quarters can be roasted with the skin on, or cut away the skin and cut the quarters into large 1-inch cubes.  Place the pumpkin onto a large rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil, rubbing the oil over the pumpkin flesh to coat lightly with the oil.  Season with salt and pepper, adding herbs as desired.  Pumpkins go well with fresh sage, rosemary and thyme.

Have the oven preheated to 375 degrees.  Place the sheet tray into the hot oven, roasting the pumpkin for 45-55 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time.  The pumpkin should be tender when pierced with a fork and lightly browned.  Remove the sheet tray from the oven, allow the pumpkin to cool on the tray.  If you have not already removed the skin prior to roasting, remove it when cool enough to handle, as the skin is not meant to be eaten.

The roasted pumpkin can be served as a side dish tossed with butter and salt.  Puree the pumpkin for making ravioli filling, or cube into small bite-size pieces adding to grains or soups.  Below is a link for roasted pumpkin with quinoa and kale. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

ChezCindy: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

 Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice can be purchased in the spice aisle of your local grocer, but consider making your own.  It is generally a combination of warm spices used when making pumpkin pie.  You most likely have the spice ingredients in your pantry to make pumpkin pie spice, with a considerable difference in taste from store-bought.  And, there are endless uses when making Fall and Winer recipes from quick breads to cakes, cookies and granola.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Measure each ingredient and add to a small bowl, whisking to combine.  Transfer to an airtight jar with a lid, such as a small glass canning or jelly jar.  Label and store in your pantry for 6-9 months. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

ChezCindy: Quinoa with Roasted Pumpkin, Kale and Cranberries

Recipe inspiration can come from unlikely places.  Today, as I was walking the aisles of Costco, I noticed that they had a packaged product of quinoa and kale.  I thought to myself, what a nice convenience that is.  But then thought, hmmm...I have cooked quinoa in my freezer, and fresh kale in the fridge.  I think I'll make this.  And so this recipe was created. 

The recipe came together quickly as I have been testing recipes with pumpkin, both in the can and fresh pumpkin squash.  I had just roasted a small whole pumpkin, sitting on my counter cooling.  It made sense to add it to the quinoa and kale.  These are Fall ingredients that are in season together and go together on the dinner plate.  Think of Thanksgiving with both squash and cranberry relish as side dishes with your turkey.  All are good flavor profiles.  And yes, this would be great for Thanksgiving.  Or Tuesday.

Cooking whole pumpkin is the same process as roasting any other type of fall squash, such as butternut or acorn.  Either of these squashes would work well as a substitute for the pumpkin.  Quinoa freezes well, as does brown rice or farro.  I usually have one or all of these in freezer bags, ready for their next use.  This makes dinner come together easily for a quick weeknight side dish.

Quinoa with Roasted Pumpkin, Kale and Cranberries
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup diced cooked pumpkin squash
2 cups chopped raw kale
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Working in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add in the thinly sliced onions with a pinch of salt.  Stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the chopped raw kale and minced garlic, stir to combine.  Cover to wilt the kale, stirring occasionally, cooking for 5 minutes.  Add in the cooked quinoa, cooked diced pumpkin squash, dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper.  Stir to combine, cooking for roughly 5 minutes until quinoa and squash are heated.  Add in remaining tablespoon of olive oil and tablespoon of butter, stir to combine.  Taste for additional salt, adding as necessary.  Dish can be served hot or at room temperature. 

Directions on how to roast pumpkin squash.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

ChezCindy: Apple Pumpkin Muffins

With the changing seasons, the farm markets and grocers are stocked with welcoming sights of crisp apples and bright orange pumpkins.  Should I make apple muffins? Or should I make pumpkin muffins?  No decision to make here.  Make apple pumpkin muffins.  These Fall favorites have big pieces of apples, moist pumpkin batter, and warm spices of cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  A perfect combination to celebrate the season. 

Apple Pumpkin Muffins
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large firm-sweet apple
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Makes 18 standard size muffins.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line the muffin cups with paper liners or grease each cup with butter.  Working with a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and the spices until combined.  Peel and core the apple, cut into 1/4 inch pieces.  In a second smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil and vanilla; stir in the apples and walnuts.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Stir to combine.  Fill the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake until the muffins are puffed and golden for 20 - 22 minutes.  Allow the muffins to cool for 15 minutes before serving. 

Recipe inspired by:  The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso

Friday, September 29, 2017

ChezCindy: Chicken Apple Meatballs with Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce

I love meatballs.  There is just something about the ground meat, the seasonings and the sauce that come together into one tiny perfect package of deliciousness.  One of my favorite cookbooks is The Meatball Shop Cookbook by Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow.  The cookbook outlines the authors' story, philosophy and recipes that came to be their fabulous restaurant in New York City.  Yep, a restaurant all about meatballs.  And it is quite a success. 

This recipe is not one from their book, but I do follow their cooking process when making meatballs.  Their recommendation is to oven roast the meatballs as pictured below. 

Roasting the meatballs provides even cooking and helps to keep their shape.  Once cooked, I then remove them from the pan and add the sauce of choice.  Certainly, you could braise or fry meatballs, depending on the recipe.  I use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop to portion out the meatballs.  This keeps the meatballs uniform in size and aids in even cooking.   

The BBQ sauce I use for this recipe is one I make.  A store-bought one could be used, jazzing it up with cider and mustard to make it special.  The grated apples in the meatballs lend just a hint of sweetness and keeps them moist.  A blend of ground beef and pork, in place of the chicken, would also complement the apples and mustard used in this recipe.

Chicken Apple Meatballs with Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated apples, skin on
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon wholegrain Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons oil for coating the roasting pan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Drizzle 3 tablespoons of oil into a 9x13-inch roasting pan; spread to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. 
Combine all ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to combine.  Portion out the mix to form meatballs roughly 2-inches in size.  Place the meatballs into the prepared roasting pan, lined up to fit closely together.  Roast for 25 minutes until the meatballs are firm and cooked through, 165 degrees when tested in the center of a meatball with a meat thermometer.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Allow the meatballs to rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a large bowl.  Add the sauce to the meatballs, gently toss to lightly cover.  Serve extra sauce on the side as desired. 

Cider Mustard BBQ Sauce
1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cider
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan; whisk to combine.  Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.  Serve with your favorite recipe.  Store extra sauce in an air-tight container in refrigerator. 

If using store-bought BBQ sauce:  Measure out 1 cup of sauce.  Add 1/4 cup cider and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.  Stir to combine. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ChezCindy: Turkey and Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

Most everyone has their favorite chili recipe, made often during the fall season.  A standard dish served while watching football games or just enjoying the cooler weather.  Whether you make your chili spicy hot with chunks of beef or ground meat, beans or no beans as some "authorities" claim chili has no beans, or vegetarian with squash, tomatoes and legumes, chili is versatile and delicious.

Here I have made turkey and pumpkin black bean chili as a change up from traditional chili.  I first created this recipe after Thanksgiving using the leftovers from that wonderful dinner.  Instead of using ground turkey, I shredded turkey meat as the base.  I had leftover pumpkin puree from making pumpkin pie - what to do with that?  Add it to the tomato sauce for the chili.  It all came together as nicely as a traditional chili recipe, with a few clever twists.

Here I have revised the recipe using ground turkey in place of the leftover shredded turkey.  If you want to add some zip, try adding jalapenos for an extra kick of spicy heat.  

Turkey and Pumpkin Black Bean Chili
1-pound ground turkey
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Working in a large pan over medium heat, brown the ground turkey meat, breaking into small pieces.  Add in the diced onion and bell pepper, cooking for 5 minutes until softened.  Add in the can of diced tomatoes and the juices, stir to combine.  Add in the black beans, pumpkin puree, chicken stock, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, gently stirring to combine.  Cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes.  Taste and adjust spices as desired. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

ChezCindy: Apple Cucumber Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

This refreshing salad is a surprising delight.  The recipe is from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso.  A well written book devoted to apple recipes, apple tips and tools, apple history, and information on how to buy and store apples. 

Ms. Traverso refers to the recipe as an apple salsa.  I found it to be more of a salad than a salsa, as I was eating it for a mid-day snack or a light lunch. 

The use of firm-tart Granny Smith apples allows for the salad to be stored in the refrigerator for several days without breaking down the apples.  The apples and the cucumbers remain crisp, which makes this a great recipe to make ahead for a party or a buffet. 

Apple Cucumber Salad with Honey Lime Dressing
2 large Granny Smith apples, about 1 pound
1 cup diced English seedless cucumber, unpeeled
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon finely minced jalapeno pepper

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint leaves

Core and dice the unpeeled apples.  I leave the skin on the apples and cucumbers as this makes a nice contrast of color.  In a medium bowl, combine the apples, cucumbers, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; stir to combine.   In a second smaller bowl, combine the fresh squeezed lime juice, honey and salt.  Pour the dressing over the apple mixture and stir to combine.  Add the sliced mint, gently stir.  Serve cold or at room temperature. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

ChezCindy: Basil Parmesan Sweet Corn with Cabernet Burgers

Summer is winding down and so too are my basil plants.  They did well this second year planted in a new location in the herb garden.  I have already made a lot of pesto, frozen away for future uses. Wanting to use the pungent green leaves one more time, I began thinking of classic combinations for side dishes to go with burgers on the grill.  Sweet corn and basil butter came to mind.  Not quite a pesto, but I thought a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese would go nicely on the cooked ears once they had been basted with the green-flecked golden butter.  Perfect.  A great side dish to my Cabernet burgers.  I think my guests will be happy as we celebrate summer one more time.  

Basil Parmesan Sweet Corn on the Cob
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Additional grated parmesan cheese for serving

6-8 ears of corn on the cob

To make the basil butter:  Place 8 tablespoons of butter into a small bowl.  Add the thinly sliced basil, grated parmesan cheese and kosher salt to the butter, stirring to combine.  Spread the butter over the cooked ears of corn.  Generously sprinkle additional grated Parmesan cheese over the corn.

Below is the link to learn how to make my Cabernet Burgers.
Chez Cindy Cabernet Burgers

Saturday, September 2, 2017

ChezCindy: Corn Muffins with Fresh Sweet Corn

This weekend I was inspired to make corn muffins using fresh corn cut from the cob.  Inspiration came from two sources.  One, my sister shared fresh corn muffins at her granddaughter's birthday party, and they were sweet, eggy and delicious.  And two, I had way too many ears of fresh corn from my CSA and my favorite farm stand.  So, I searched for a muffin recipe using fresh corn.  My sister's recipe made mini muffins that were more of an appetizer style.  The recipe I am sharing below is a traditional cornbread muffin recipe with the addition of fresh corn.  Not too sweet, making it great for breakfast with a bit of honey, or to be served alongside of BBQ brisket or chicken.  These muffins come together quickly and are perfect for a relaxing weekend. 

Fresh Sweet Corn Muffins
1 cup flour ~ all-purpose or gluten free*
1 cup cornmeal, yellow or white
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk**
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup corn kernels, cut fresh from corn cob or frozen

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease the cups with butter.  Recipe makes 12 muffins.

Working in a large mixing bowl, add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking to combine.  In a large glass measuring cup, measure out the 1 cup of milk, add in the eggs, melted butter and oil, whisking to until well combined.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and using a rubber spatula, stir to combine.  The batter may be a bit lumpy, but that is best for a more tender batter.  Stir in the corn kernels.  Evenly divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups.

Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow the muffins to cool in the muffin pan for 10-15 minutes.  This is particularly necessary if using gluten free flour.  Serve warm with butter and honey if desired.  

* I use Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend.  It is a one-to-one swap with all-purpose flour.

**I left the ingredient list for milk intentionally generic.  Your choice of milk can be whole, skim, buttermilk or non-dairy.  I used unsweetened almond milk for my recipe and the results were spectacular.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

ChezCindy: Corn Tortilla Chips with Cinnamon Sugar Dusting

Baked Corn Tortilla Chips with Cinnamon Sugar Dusting

Making homemade tortilla chips with fresh corn tortillas is a healthy inexpensive snack.  My recently made tacos left me with an abundance of tortillas.  I normally freeze them for future use, but have found that the corn tortillas don't freeze as well as the flour ones do.  It seems the texture breaks down just a bit.  I decided to try baking them with great results.  Seasoning choices offer a wide variety from simple sea salt, to salt-cayenne-cumin, or this sweet version with cinnamon sugar. 

Baked Corn Tortilla Chips with Cinnamon Sugar
Fresh corn tortillas
Canola oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
Sea salt

Combine the cinnamon, sugar and a large pinch of sea salt in a small bow.  Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the corn tortillas with canola oil on each side.  Stack the tortillas and cut into 8 pieces, either triangles or strips.  Spread the cut tortillas onto a baking sheet in a single layer, without over-lapping.  This will allow the pieces to crisp evenly. 

Place the baking sheet in the hot oven; bake tortillas for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, flip over each chip and bake for 1-2 more minutes until nicely browned.  Remove from the oven.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the warm chips, gently tossing to distribute the spice mixture.  Allow to cool.  The chips will become crisper as they cool. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ChezCindy: Salmon Fish Tacos

These salmon fish tacos feature fresh ingredients using summer sweet corn and yellow tomato salsa.  There is a bit of prep work to come together, but the salsa and the cream sauce can be made early in the day and stored until you are ready to cook the salmon.  I serve these with steamed white rice to soak up the juices that drip from the taco as you work your way through each delicious bite.  Cumin is sprinkled on the salmon and in the salsa bringing together a great flavor combination that works really well. 

Pan-Seared Salmon
1-pound fresh salmon
2 tablespoons canola
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

Pat the salmon dry with paper towels.  Place a large non-stick pan over medium- high heat.  Pre-heat the pan for a few minutes; add 1 tablespoon of oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over the salmon.  Sprinkle the salt, pepper and cumin over the salmon.  Carefully, place the salmon flesh side down into the hot pan.  Don't move or flip the salmon for about 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness.  You will see the salmon changing color from the pan side moving up.  When nicely seared, a spatula should easily slip under the salmon so that it can now be flipped onto the skin side.  Cook skin side for about 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Flip the salmon over to skin side up.  Using tongs, remove the skin by pulling back at one corner, and pulling across the full piece of salmon.  It should remove easily.  Discard the skin.  Flip the salmon over so that the flesh side is now up.  Allow to rest in the pan for 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan until ready to build the tacos. 

Yellow Tomato Corn Salsa with Black Beans
1 1/2 pounds yellow tomatoes, any variety
3-4 small banana peppers, mix of hot or mild
1/4 cup diced yellow onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large or 3 medium ears of corn, cut from the cob
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Working with a food processor, cut the peppers, onions and garlic into pieces; place in the bowl of the food processor; pulse 3-4 times to combine.  Add the salt, pepper, dried oregano and cumin.  Cut the tomatoes into large pieces; add to the pepper-onion mixture.  Run the food processor for 30 seconds to 1 minute, to create a salsa-like texture.  Remove the salsa from the food processor bowl to a medium mixing bowl.  Cut the corn from the cobs; add to the tomato salsa mixture.  Stir in the drained black beans and lime juice to combine.  Adjust salt as necessary.

Mexican Crema Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients into a medium sized bowl.  Whisk to combine. 

Red and green cabbage thinly sliced
Soft flour or corn tortilla shells

To build the taco:  Warm the tortilla shells in the microwave or in a skillet.  Place a small amount of flaked salmon down the center of the tortilla.  Add shredded cabbage, salsa and cream sauce.  Serve warm with steamed rice. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

ChezCindy: Perfect Poached Eggs

When it comes to food fashion, we are a fickle people.  Consider how eggs were a food no-no for decades thanks to their high cholesterol content.  In 2000, the American Heart Association revised its dietary guidelines and gave the green light to begin enjoying eggs once again.  Yay!

I had to ease back into eating whole eggs after eating egg whites or egg substitute for years.  I am so happy to enjoy the sunny yolks of farm fresh eggs.  I love the soft curds of scrambled eggs seasoned with butter and a bit of salt.  So simple.  Adding an egg to top off most any food changes it from plain to elegant.  Watching the ooze of the runny yolk as it mingles with a spinach salad or a plate of golden brown French fries is a culinary joy.

Poached eggs are often considered to be advanced cooking or too much trouble to deal with.  They take a bit of practice, but are really quite easy to do.  I like that the cooking process requires no additional fat.  One large egg is roughly 70 calories.  Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan for skillet cooking and we now have jumped up to 170 calories.  Delicious, but I can do without the extra 100 calories. 

Here is how to poach an egg: 
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups water

Fill a small saucepan roughly 2/3 full with water; bring to a gentle boil.  Add the vinegar.  Lower the heat to a simmer.  Crack the egg into a small cup. 

Holding the edge of the cup, gently ease the egg into the simmering water. 

Allow the egg to poach in the simmering water for 4 minutes for a slightly runny yolk.  Add or subtract 30 seconds to reach the firmness you prefer. 

 Carefully lower a slotted spoon under the egg to remove from the water.  Blot dry on a towel. 

Season and serve the warm egg as desired. 

To make the fresh corn cakes, find the recipe here  from an earlier post.  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

ChezCindy: Summer Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad

Summer brings the bounty of sun-ripened tomatoes.  Fresh from the vine, bursting with flavor - so delicious and so good for you.  Tomatoes are versatile and nutrient rich.  A tomato's vitamin C content increases as the fruit ripens.  Vine-ripened tomatoes contain nearly twice the vitamin C and beta-carotene as their green-picked counterparts.  However, don't let that keep you from eating fried green tomatoes.

This simple tomato feta salad is a great accompaniment to most any summer event be it a picnic, a weekend brunch buffet, or tonight's dinner.  You'll need the star ingredient of good tomatoes from your local farm stand, and a few other ingredients.  In this recipe I use feta cheese.  Blue cheese or curls of Parmesan cheese would go nicely just as well.  Choose your favorite and enjoy! 

Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad
5-6 small tomatoes, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Working in a medium size bowl, add the vinegar, onions, salt and pepper; stir to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to combine.  Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add to the bowl.  Gently stir to coat the tomatoes with the dressing.  Add the crumbled feta cheese and the basil ribbons; stir to combine.  Serve at room temperature.

Note:  Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature in a single layer.  Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator causes them to lose flavor and turn mealy. 

ChezCindy: Chicken Thigh Peperonata

Peperonata is a rustic Italian dish of cooked peppers served as an accompaniment to meat or fish.  It can be made with a blend of different types of peppers, cooked with garlic, onions and/or tomatoes or even eggplant.  Here I took one type of pepper and cooked it with chicken thighs, finished with butter and honey.  The honey softens the heat of the peppers, commingling with the chicken juices and a touch of butter.  Serve this simple weeknight dinner with a fresh tomato salad or a mix of greens and cucumbers with a light vinaigrette.  A complete meal in roughly 30 minutes. 

Chicken Thigh Peperonata
5 chicken thighs - bone in with skin
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, or to preference
6 large mild banana peppers, sliced into rings, about 1 1/2 cups sliced
1 large Spanish or Vidalia onion, sliced vertically, about 1 cup sliced
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons honey

Season the chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and black pepper.  Working with a large skillet over medium high heat, add the tablespoon of oil to the pan; place the chicken into the hot pan, skin-side down.  Cook the thighs on one side for roughly 10-12 minutes.  

Scatter the sliced pepper rings and sliced onions into the pan with the chicken.  Season the peppers and onions with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Continue to cook the chicken, still on side one, and the peppers/onions for 7-8 minutes, moving the peppers/onions around to cook evenly.  Once the peppers/onions have softened and cooked down, move them to one side of the pan.  Turn the chicken thighs to cook on side 2, redistributing the peppers/onions around the chicken.  Side one should be nicely browned at this time.  If not, allow to cook a few minutes longer.  Once you have turned to side 2, cook for about 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through* and the peppers/onions are soft and slightly browned.  

Add the tablespoon of butter to the pan.  Drizzle the honey over the chicken and peppers/onions.  Stir the peppers and onions through the sauce that has formed in the pan, flipping the chicken to coat with sauce.  Remove the chicken, peppers and onions from the pan to a serving platter.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Serve hot or room temperature with a fresh tomato salad. 

*Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Monday, July 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Pasta & Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan

As we look forward to summer, having zucchini and summer squash available at farm markets and within our own gardens, the squash is available year-round at the grocer.  Zucchini has a mild flavor and is very adaptive to numerous cooking methods.  This versatile squash can be served raw in a salad; or sautéed, roasted or fried for a number of savory side dishes.  Shredded zucchini can be added to cake, bread and muffin batter creating a moist tender crumb.  I have fond memories of the first time I made zucchini bread as a young baker, seeing the little green flecks of zucchini wrapped inside the sweet bread.  A few years later I learned that adding mini chocolate chips to the batter made it even more delicious. 

There is a bit of a "zoodle" craze going on that carves zucchini and squash into faux pasta noodles.  Looks intriguing, but I have yet to invest in a zoodle-maker.  Instead, I make zucchini ribbons by using a vegetable peeler, shaving down the length of the squash to form beautiful strips that look like colorful ribbons. 

The recipe included below combines eggy pappardelle pasta noodles with the shaved vegetable ribbons, garnished with more ribbons of fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  This recipe pleases a wide variety of palettes from true veggie-lovers to those who only tolerate vegetables.   

Pasta and Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan
4 medium zucchini, green and yellow variety
4 small carrots
1 cup red onion, sliced vertically
2 cloves garlic
6-8 ounces dry pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced into ribbons
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese curls

Cook the dry pappardelle noodles according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini squash and carrots into ribbons.  Slice the red onion into thin vertical slices.  Chop the garlic.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onion and the carrot, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir frequently, cooking for about 4 minutes until the onion is tender.  Add in the remaining zucchini squash and garlic, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir to combine with the onions and carrots, cooking until all vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat.  

Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables along with 2 tablespoons of butter, remaining salt and black pepper; gently stir to combine.  Transfer the pasta and ribbon vegetables to serving platter.  Garnish with ribbons of basil and Parmesan cheese curls.  Serve warm or room temperature. 
Shown below is ribbon pasta with seared salmon but can also accompany grilled chicken, or stand-alone as a vegetarian dinner.